Who missed the missing cash webinar at EY?


Wirecard and webinars

EY, the totally trusting auditor of fibbing fintech Wirecard, has been trying to improve clients’ financial reporting for years. It now operates a “Global Center for Board Matters”, with a UK Centre in London, offering events, workshops, webinars and videos — not to mention a must-listen podcast called (wait for it) “Board Matters”. And it has not let coronavirus make any of this matter less. Its latest webcasts cover: “The role of corporates post COVID-19” and “How can non-executive directors help their companies prepare for recovery?”. But shareholders in the now collapsed Wirecard — and consumers reliant on its payment technology — may wish EY had begun the programme a little earlier. Last week, it emerged that EY auditors failed to check whether Wirecard really did have up to $1bn in cash in a Singapore bank for more than three years. It was not until Wednesday this week, however, that EY went live with its latest webcast on “Considerations for audit committees”. Helpfully, a slide in the presentation reminds all those involved in audits of “Five current questions investors seek information on”. Question number one is . . . “How much cash does the company have?” When EY’s Wirecard blunder was revealed, a rival beancounter expressed incredulity, noting “cash is easy to audit”. Evidently, at EY it remains difficult until you’ve sat through the right webinar.

Godfrey Cromwell
Giveaway getaway

If your job is basically saying to bankers, “Free money — please take some!” but their reply is “actually, no thanks” it might be time to rethink your skillset. So it is perhaps not surprising that Godfrey Cromwell is stepping down as chair of Banking Competition Remedies, the body set up in 2018 to redistribute £775m from Royal Bank of Scotland to rival lenders. It seems he literally couldn’t give the stuff away. He tried to give £120m to Metro Bank, only for it to refuse £50m of the prize because it no longer had big expansion plans. He tried to give £50m to Nationwide, only for it to send the whole lot back because it couldn’t make viable loans. One banking analyst suggested this decision making did “not look good for BCR”. It may look better to Lord Cromwell from the benches of the House of Lords. By the time he heads off in September, all the major decisions should have been taken and the money reallocated. But even if it isn’t, his successor Richard Anderson looks well able to do the job. As a former partner at accountants PwC, he will be used to companies sending large sums of money his way.

Andrew Bud
Mask avenger

Andrew Bud, the British boffin behind facial verification company iProov, has convinced another institution of the need for remote ID checks in these times of social distancing. Earlier this week, Aegon’s challenger bank in the Netherlands said it would use iProov’s biometric technology to spot online fraudsters trying to impersonate any of its 500,000 customers. iProov’s methods include flashing random colours on to an applicant’s face in real time and measuring the reflections to ensure it’s a real person — not a video recording or someone in a lifelike mask. Knab joins the NHS and Eurostar as early adopters of the UK group’s authentication knowhow. But while the NHS’s need for ID certainty is obvious, Eurostar’s enthusiasm begs at least two questions: Are Brits so desperate for a holiday they’d wear masks of other people to get on to a train? And of whom would those masks need to be . . .? 

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